Great Migrations: Wildebeest and Whale Sharks
Visit the Serengeti National Park to witness the immensity of the famous wildebeest migration before swimming with whale sharks as they migrate to the nutrient rich water around Mafia Island.
Prices: On request
Duration: 8 nights
Availability: October to March
Destinations: Serengeti National Park, Mafia Island
i) Experience the famous Wildebeest migration
ii) Hot air balloon safari in search of the migration
iii) Plentiful game and predator action in Serengeti National Park
iv) Swimming with 20 tonne whale sharks
v) Relax on the deserted beaches of Mafia Island
A once-in-a-lifetime trip designed to provide you with the best experiences the natural world has to offer. Combining and immersing you in two migrations of huge magnitude, this trip is perfect for those passionate about close up wildlife interactions. Begin in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania where you will partake in game drives in search of the huge herds of herbivores that make the continuous clockwise migration each year. This is also a great opportunity to witness the fight for survival as the migration is tracked by African predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena. Fly out of the Serengeti and onto the island of Mafia for a 4 nights stay. The purpose of your time here is to swim with the world’s largest fish, the enormous whale shark. Weighing up to 20 tonnes they really are a big fish.
Best time to visit?
So what is the best time of year to take this trip to maximise your overall experience? Without knowing you yet this is a difficult question to answer. With so many variables to consider we need to know what is important to you before we advise on the preferable time for you.
There are many variables to consider when attempting to recommend the best time to visit. Specific considerations include the whereabouts of migratory animals, the effect the density of the vegetation and height of the grass has on wildlife viewing, special wildlife moments such as the birth of baby animals, and the effect weather patterns has on wildlife behaviour. Other factors to consider are the variation in prices at different times of the year, visitor traffic, whether you prefer a lush or relatively arid environment and of course the annual climate, namely temperature and rainfall values.
For this reason we present detailed information for each individual destination in the locations section to help you understand what may work best for you. We will of course have an in-depth discussion with you prior to making a booking so you are completely happy with the time of year you decide to travel.
- Game drives
- Swimming with whale sharks
- Hot air balloon safari
- Domestic flights as described in the daily itinerary
- Airport transfers in Tanzania & Mafia
- 8 nights accommodation as stated
- All meals and drinks as stated in the daily itinerary
- All game activities as described in the daily itinerary
- Two half-day whale shark excursions
- All relevant taxes and surcharges
- International flight to and from Tanzania
- Airport transfers in home country
- Meals not stated in the daily itinerary
- Drinks unless otherwise stated
- Applicable VISAS
- Tips and gratuities
- Health innoculations and medications
- Items of a personal nature
- Day 1 Your Ultimate Wildlife Adventure Begins
Board your overnight international flight from your chosen airport to Kilimanjaro International Airport, Tanzania.
- Day 2 Chaka Camp, Serengeti National Park (L, D)
Upon arrival in Tanzania you will be extended a warm welcome by one of our representatives who will take care of your onward flight to the Serengeti. The flight to the Serengeti will take approximately 60 minutes and is a pleasant journey with views of mountain ranges, Masai villages and of course the vast land that is the Serengeti.
On arrival you will be met by a member of the team and transferred to your camp with opportunities for game viewing along the way. After a vigorating shower and lunch you will head out into the bush in search of the herds of wildebeest, zebra, topi and the rest of the herbivores that make up this 2 million strong group of animals.
- Day 3-5 Chaka Camp, Serengeti National Park (B, L, D)
These 3 days are simply for exploring the vast area of the Serengeti. The area of the park which you will be staying and exploring is dependent on the time of year you visit. The migration, as its name suggests, is constantly on the move so we will be sure to locate you in the correct area of the park so you will be surrounded by the migration.
Game drives are very much the activity of choice in the Serengeti but if you visit at a time when the migration is in the south of the park we would highly recommend game viewing on foot as part of a walking safari. The south of the park also offers a unique birds-eye view of the migration in the form of a hot air balloon safari, an experience that is truly magical.
The Serengeti is abundant with a huge diversity of wildlife species. Therefore, as well as seeing thousands of wildebeest and hundreds of zebras, also expect to see possibly over a hundred lions, good numbers of cheetah, leopards and spotted hyena as well as a variety of herbivores such as topi, hartebeest, impala, and Thomson’s gazelle and Grant’s gazelle. Smaller carnivores include several species of mongoose and for those lucky enough serval, caracal and honey badger.
- Day 6 Pole Pole Lodge, Mafia Island (B, L, D)
Today you will call time on one of the most spectacular wildlife events on earth but with the promise of experiencing an equally impressive spectacle.
Wake at a more leisurely time and enjoy breakfast before meandering to the airstrip, stopping for any interesting game sightings along the way. The flight from Serengeti to Mafia will take in excess of 5 hours due to Mafia being towards the end of the pick up and drop off circuit of destinations. Read a book, organise the images you have taken so far or simply reflect on what has been and build anticipation for what is to come in the following days.
On arrival in Mafia you will be transferred to your accommodation where you will familiarise yourself with your new home and served a delicious evening meal.
- Day 7-9 Pole Pole Lodge, Mafia Island (B, L, D)
The purpose of your time on Mafia Island is undoubtedly to swim with whale sharks. We recommend and include two half-day excursions to swim with these gentle giants. However, if you wanted to swim each day or swim less and have more time to relax on the beach then we are happy to plan around your ideal itinerary.
When not swimming with whale sharks you may choose to simply enjoy a much deserved rest on the beach or partake in other excursions such as idyllic and secluded island retreats, snorkelling in the lagoon or even diving with the lodge’s PADI 5 Star Dive Center.
- Day 10 The End Of Your Ultimate Wildlife Adventure
Today sadly marks the end of your ultimate wildlife adventure. You will leave with the knowledge that you have experienced nature at its absolute best and no doubt will be counting down the days to your next adventure.
Serengeti National Park
Overview: We have chosen Chaka Camp as it is a mobile migration camp. This means it moves to ensure it is always in close proximity to the wildebeest migration. It is a suitable option to combine with whale shark adventures as it is in the south of the park from December to March and in the northern areas in October and November.
Accommodation: Traditional safari tents with ensuite bathrooms. Bathrooms include hot and cold running water, flush toilet and traditional safari style hot bucket showers.
Facilities & Amenities: A central mess tent housing the dining area and a bar with a selection of beverages.
Power & communication: The camp runs off of solar power with a backup generator. WiFi is free and is available in central areas. However, it is slow due to the remoteness of the location. Mobile phone network coverage is possible but at times unreliable.
Activities: Game drives
Children: The camp has an open age policy meaning children of all ages are welcome. However, the camp is often located in wilderness areas with large game often passing through. Close supervision of children of all ages is essential at all times.
Pole Pole Lodge
Overview: Pole Pole is located in the Chole Bay area, near Utende village on the southeast coast of the Mafia Island Marine Park. It lies on the beach, within a tropical garden, overlooking a spectacular view of the Mafia Archipelago and the Indian Ocean.
Accommodation: 7 luxury bungalow suites, elegant and spacious, are set among the coconut palms overlooking the bay. The rooms are furnished with carved and antique pieces, and both twin and double beds are available. Two bungalows are family suites, containing two rooms separated by a shared bathroom and a small corridor for privacy. The large private verandas are furnished with a Zanzibari daybed, chairs and a coffee table. All bungalows are self-contained, and all have ceiling fans to keep them cool.
Facilities & Amenities: Public areas include a library and a beautiful swimming pool. The beach is an excellent place to relax with its fine white sand.
Power & communication: Solar-generated electrical power. WiFi is unavailable. Mobile phone network coverage is unpredictable.
Activities: Swimming with whale sharks. Other available activities in the marine park are scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing and visiting the local villages. Pole Pole organises boat excursions and picnics to isolated islets, sandbanks or islands every day. The Diving Centre provides PADI Federations’ certificates (medical certificates are mandatory to do a beginners course).
Children: Due to the intimate and serene nature of the lodge children must be 10 years of age or older.
Accessibility: Mafia Island is approximately 30 miles off the Tanzanian coast. It is well connected to both the northern and southern safari circuits via Arusha and Dar Es Salaam respectively. Light aircraft flights arrive at Kilindoni. The onward overland journey to the resort takes only 20 minutes.
- Special Status: UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Location: Northern Tanzania
- Land mass: 14,750 km²
- Mammal species: 300+
- Bird species: 500+
- Big 5 reserve: Yes
- Game drives
- Hot air balloon safari
- Night drives (limited)
- Walking safari (limited)
- Wildebeest migration
- Big 5 destination
- Prolific predator sightings
- World-leading leopard destination
- Sheer abundance and variety of animals
- World-famous hot air balloon safari
The Serengeti National Park is amongst the most well-known wildlife reserves in Africa, and indeed the world. Inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981 it has been the subject of many BBC wildlife documentaries.
With a total area of 14,750 km² the Serengeti is a large reserve. To give perspective, its land mass is equal to that of the U.S state of Connecticut or the United Kingdom’s largest county, Yorkshire. It is located in the north of the country and is one of the northern circuit reserves alongside Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
This location within a circuit makes it an ideal inclusion for an overland safari. Road travel is the most popular method to access the park. Fly-in safari into one of the airstrips dotted around the park is also a possibility for those short on time. It is common to arrive by road but depart by air to save time and the strenuous road journey back to Arusha.
Being a national park somewhat limits the activities on offer. Game drives are the overwhelming activity of choice with balloon safari a welcome alternative. Park regulations have been relaxed in some areas of the park with some operators now able to offer night drives, walking safari, and cultural interaction.
The Serengeti National Park is renowned for its abundant and varied wildlife. It is unique in the fact the blue wildebeest is arguably the flagship species due to the famous migration. Each year 2 million individuals make the never ending journey in search of fresh pastures.
The park has solid predator numbers including 4,000 lions, 1,000 leopards, 225 cheetahs, caracal, and serval. The dogs are represented by the presence of bat-eared fox, side-striped jackal, and black-backed jackal, as well as 300 individuals of the elusive and difficult to see African wild dog. Three of the four hyena species are present. Spotted hyena are the most abundant but you may get lucky and see striped hyena and the aardwolf. Do not expect to see a brown hyena as their natural range does not extend beyond Southern Africa. Huge Nile crocodile should not be overlooked due to their spectacular performance in the wildebeest’s Mara River crossings.
Maintaining the predators are a huge number of herbivores including an estimated 900,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 300,000 zebras, 7,000 elands, 27000 topis, 18,000 hartebeests, 70,000 Cape buffalos, 4,000 giraffes, 2,700 elephants, and 500 hippopotamus.
The Serengeti is a Big 5 reserve due to the presence of black rhinoceros. However, with only 200 individuals in such an expansive area (1 rhino per 74 km²) they can be difficult to see. Do not expect to see white rhinoceros as they have never been resident in Tanzania.
Best Time To Visit
The Serengeti National Park is considered a year-round destination but it does vary at different times of the year. There is no time of year that offers you the best of everything so we provide you with a balanced account throughout the year so you are able to make an informed decision.
The seasons in Serengeti National Park can be roughly divided into dry seasons and rainy seasons as follows; the short dry season (January to mid-March), long rainy season (mid-March to late May), long dry season (June- October), and short rains (November & December). The temperature is pretty consistent throughout the year. May to August are the cooler months with mornings and evenings potentially requiring a light jacket but otherwise its remains hot. Rainfall is at its highest from mid-March to late May and again in November. April is the month to seriously consider whether you should travel as rain can be torrential and persistent with roads becoming impassable.
Wildlife viewing, as with most locations, is more prolific in the dry season. The long dry season is the best time in the Serengeti and this improves as the season wears on. The dry landscape exposes wildlife and their behaviour becomes predictable as they congregate around permanent water sources.
The wildebeest migration is best observed from January to July. From January-March large herds congregate in the southern Serengeti making them extremely accessible. This is the calving season and for around 3 weeks, usually in February, the area is awash with baby animals and an abundance of opportunistic predators. The animals move into the central Serengeti in April and May and this is also a good time to observe them. They migrate towards the Western corridor from late May or June and cross the Grumeti River. July and August sees the animals migrate north and it is usually around this time that the Mara River crossings over into the Maasai Mara occur.
Unfortunately, the best time to view wildlife coincides with the highest prices of the season and the most tourist traffic. Prices and tourist numbers peak around Christmas and the New Year and from mid-June through October. April to mid-June is the best time to travel for those on a budget or those wanting a quieter and more authentic experience. The short dry season and short rainy season offers somewhat of a compromise on both accounts.
The bush is at its most lush during and soon after the rains. This time is usually the best time of year for those wanting to see a large abundance of migratory birds. As the dry season wears on the vegetation dies off and the land takes on a parched appearance.
- Special Status: N/A
- Location: Indian Ocean east of the Tanzanian mainland
- Land mass: 435 km²
- Marine species:400 species of fish
- Mammal species: Unrecorded
- Bird species: Unrecorded
- Swimming with whale sharks
- Beach and remote island retreats
- Swim with the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark.
- Experience some of the best and most challenging dive sites in the world.
- Enjoy the laid-back nature and authenticity of this rarely visited island
Mafia Island is the southern-most island of the 3 main islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago, with Zanzibar Island in the middle and Pemba to the north. With a land mass of only 435 km² (49 kilometres in length and 17 kilometres wide) it is a relatively small island. Although Mafia is within the Zanzibar Archipelago it has never been politically a part of Zanzibar, instead governed by the Pwani Region on the Tanzanian mainland.
The big attraction of Mafia is its reliability in producing exceptional whale shark experiences. Wildlife, whether terrestrial or marine, is never guaranteed but the promise of swimming with whale sharks carries more reliability here than arguably anywhere else in the world. The diving is also exceptional but leans more towards the experienced diver than the first-timer.
Tourist numbers are low on Mafia Island in comparison to Zanzibar Island and this is in effect due to the relative obscurity of good quality accommodation and the fact the beaches are much inferior to those of their larger cousin’s. The accommodations are generally more geared towards the outdoorsy and adventurous types. Having said that, the eco-lodges on the island must not be underestimated as some are world-class. The coastline is dominated with mangrove forests rather than the postcard-perfect beaches characteristic of Zanzibar Island.
Mafia Island is not for everybody and certainly most of our guests are more suited to Zanzibar. However, for those wanting authenticity and a laid back vibe combined with exceptional diving and reliable whale shark sightings then Mafia is the perfect destination for you..
The months of October to February are deemed the whale shark season, with November and December providing the most reliability. It is at this time of year that the north monsoon wind, known as Kaskazi, pushes plankton rich surface water from the Rufiji River towards Mafia Island. The whale sharks are attracted to this area and hoover up the plankton with their huge mouths. Swimming next to these marine giants is a truly extraordinary and exhilarating feeling and can be regarded as one of the most breathtaking wildlife experiences anywhere in the natural world.
Best Time To Visit
The weather and the reliability of whale shark sightings are the main considerations when planning a trip to Mafia Island.
Due to its location on the equator Mafia Island is warm and pleasant year round with very little variability in temperature from month to month. You can expect lows of between 20-25 degrees Celsius with highs of 28-32 degrees Celsius most days of the year.
There are two distinct dry seasons, the hotter one being in January and February and the slightly cooler one between July and October. The months with the lowest rainfall are July followed by June and August.
As with the Tanzanian mainland there are two rainy seasons. The short rains fall in November to early December and the longer, more persistent rains fall between March and May, with April being the wettest of all the months.
Mafia remains a hidden gem so is never busy with tourists in any season. However, price fluctuations should be noted in the more popular drier months.
The whale shark season runs from October to March with arguably the most reliable months for successful sightings being November and December. However, if you do travel in season then, although never guaranteed, you have an excellent opportunity of swimming with these huge fish.